Once again we go through the looking glass to the hothouse atmosphere of higher learning at the Stanford Law School–a political fundraing tour for the Swedish Pirate Party hosted by Google and the Stanford Law School featuring a little chat with the head of the Swedish Pirate Party courtesy of Karl Fogel of QuestionCopyright.org. Fogel describes himself thusly: “After a brief stint as an Open Source Specialist at Google in 2006, he decided to work full-time on copyright reform and founded QuestionCopyright.org.”
What a shocking turn of events. I guess the options must have vested or something.
So on this fine July day, the Pirate King made his first stop at Stanford. Mr. Fogel is introduced to the Stanford audience by James Jacobs, who identifies himself as the International Documents Librarian at the Stanford University Library. Funny, he left off the part about he is also a board member of QuestionCopyright.org, which you would have thought he would have mentioned since he was introducing Fogel, his fellow board member whom Jacobs identified as being the “foreign secretary” for the Swedish Pirate Party. Now don’t you get confused that the Pirate Party has anything to do with the Pirate Bay. Nosireebobtail. They don’t. No connection. Just like there’s no connection between Sinn Fein and the Irish Republican Army.
(Both Fogel and Jacobs serve on the QuestionCopyright board along with Brewster Kahle, whose most recent accomplishment in the copyright world is being a plaintiff for Lester Lawrence Lessig III’s latest attempt to overturn the U.S. Copyright Act. And of course the entire circus was being hosted by–Lessig’s business unit at Stanford [funded by Google in large part] where his grant writers were probably having a brown bag to catch up on goings on in Sweden before getting back to the grindstone. The Old Tripster is never far away, is he?)
I noticed that Mr. Fogel waxed enthusiastic before he introduced the Pirate Party speaker–about, of all things, campaign contributions. Apparently the Pirate in Chief had recently spoken at an O’Reilly conference where we will not be surprised to learn he was (according to Fogel) mobbed by people shoving cash into his hands as campaign contributions.
Mr. Fogel tells us that it’s just the gooviest thing, political contributions are unregulated in Sweden and–up strings–“anonymity is the default”. Ah yes, the beloved anonymity. So, Mr. Fogel admonishes the crowd–here’s your chance to come up and press cash into the hand of the Pirate in Chief.
Just think about that image for a second.
Now, I’m as fond of Tammany Hall, Richard Daley and Huey Long as the next guy. Heck, I grew up in Texas. Vote early and often and all that sort of thing.
But I have to tell you that I find it so hysterical I can hardly contain myself (I think that’s called “LOL” for you Googleheads) that someone who is standing at the fountainhead, the wellspring, the epicenter–ground zero of the most sanctimonious spew about “corruption” we have heard in a long, long time–sponsored by an institution funded by one of the biggest corporations in the world, from which it has reportedly received hundreds of millions in stock–is positively thrilled at the idea that political contributions are unregulated somewhere and is CHALLENGING the audience to PRESS WADS OF CASH INTO THE HANDS OF A POLITICIAN–A PIRATE KING.
I mean–is it just me? Surely it’s not just me, right? That has to be hysterically funny if not actionable? Because even if it’s true that campaign contributions are anonymous and unregulated in Sweden, these contributions weren’t happening in Sweden.
Ah yes. Every man a pirate king, but no one wears a crown.
The Kingfish really missed the boat on that one.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight (with wads of cash falling out of his pockets), “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”
Epilogue: You do have to wonder a bit about all this obsession with anonymity about political contributions. I know that Google is new at this, but I really think they are at a point where they should not be even indirectly participating in having some bagman raise anonymous wads of cash for any candidate, much less trying to influence the outcome of a foreign election. I mean that almost sounds like…I don’t know, the CIA or something.
On the other hand, if it’s good enough for Google, it should certainly be good enough for, I don’t know–Halliburton, right? Because since Google does no evil, stuffing wads of cash into the pockets of foreign politicians can’t be bad, right?
In fact–on the same trip, the Pirate King spoke later that day…at Google. And Fogel made the exact same pitch at Google about “pressing cash into his bare palms”. However, no Google employee was stupid enough to get themselves on camera for that one (unlike all the other “@Google” videos I’ve seen). Big shout out to poster Rick for pointing out these vids.
Of course, the missing link is whether anyone from Google or Google itself actually gave money to the Pirate Party. And then there’s the costs of the trip, etc. But we’ll never know.
Well…at least they’re just information warriors and aren’t blowing up Harrods.
And just for clarity’s sake, when I referred to Lessig staffers attending a “brown bag” I meant as in “brown bag lunch” not “brown bags full of cash”.
6 thoughts on “Happy Holidays from Palo Alto: Google and Stanford Lead the Way on Campaign Finance Reform”
No worries, we don’t discriminate against anybody just because you can’t contribute using untraceable cash.Paypal works fine, too. We accept contributions worldwide at http://www.piratpartiet.se/donate and discretion is guaranteed. Any and all amounts permitted, no regulations, the anonymity of all contributors is guaranteed.Cheers,Rick
Disclaimer: I’m putting up this post by the Viking Pirate King so that everyone can see that I didn’t make this up. I have no idea if posting this link violates US campaign disclosure laws or the Patriot Act, but if anyone from Homeland Security is reading this and thinks I should take it down, let me know. I suppose if you can contribute to Sinn Fein/IRA you can contribute to Pirate Party/Pirate Bay as both organizations will tell you there’s no connection until they’re blue in the face.Somebody tell Richard Nixon that the cause of all his bad luck was that he was running for office in the wrong country.I’m sure that Professor Lessig will excuse himself from any discussion of campaign finances in his new “corruption” crusdade given the practice in his pet (“very interesting”) Pirate Party and the “fantastically cool freculture country of Sweden” to quote the Tripster.I’m sure that Stanford is showing us all the new way in campaign finance–screw the reporting, let’s go to WADS OF CASH!
A few factual corrections, and a few other things:I made no money from stock or other instruments at Google; I was there for less than six months (I highly recommend it as a place to work, by the way, it just wasn’t for me).James Jacobs was not a board member at QuestionCopyright.org at the time of Rick’s Stanford talk (indeed, James became a board member partly because of his help arranging that talk, among other things). Brewster Kahle likewise was not on the board yet then. In fact, we didn’t even have a board yet at the time of Rick’s Bay Area talks.To the best of my knowledge, the separation between the Pirate Party and the Pirate Bay is real. No doubt they sometimes coordinate on campaigns; so did Ralph Nader and the Democratic Party, at various times, but you’d hardly liken their partnership to that of Sinn Fein and the IRA.I said nothing at either talk to imply that the system of funding political campaigns via private money is “the grooviest thing”. I don’t like it any more than you do. It’s possible, however, that such a system may be an inevitable outgrowth of freedom of speech (after all, I don’t even have to coordinate with a candidate, I can just buy and run the ads myself if I want to “donate” to the campaign).And regardless of whether we dislike that system in general, there’s no reason to support unilateral disarmament. The pro-copyright lobby vastly outspends us reformers in political donations all over the world. In such an environment, what’s wrong with encouraging donations to the side one favors?Google has made no donations to the Swedish Pirate Party that I’m aware of. What Google’s employees do with their own money is their business (though I also don’t know if any of them donated). The decision to make Swedish elections influenceable by foreigners is clearly Sweden’s (it’s their campaign finance law!). I do not see, in principle, anything wrong with a foreigner trying to influence a country’s elections. Nations aren’t isolated little islands. What happens in Sweden influences the EU… influences the U.S. I certainly have no problem with foreigners trying to influence U.S. elections: our actions have consequences outside our borders, too.Rick’s flights to/from the U.S.A. were paid for by O’Reilly Media, as part of bringing him to be a keynote speaker at OSCON 2006 in Portland, Oregon. Getting Rick from Portland to the San Francisco Bay Area was paid for by Rick and myself. Google paid him nothing for speaking, and did not pay any travel expenses either. They generally don’t, for such talks. Google tries to get speakers with something interesting to say, but pointedly does not endorse the content of their talks. That applies to this talk as much as to any other Google Tech Talk. I believe there was a message to that effect at the beginning of the video. You may have chosen not to take that message seriously, but they really mean it.
Thank you for these clarifcations, you strike me as a decent young man whom (if you will permit me the arrogance of old age) seems to have fallen in with bad company.As far as what Google disclaims it endorses, I think we’ll have to agree to disagree about the implications of who it invites to speak at the Googleplex. I haven’t seen Clive Davis, Jerry Moss, Jac Holtzman, or folk like that showing up. I frankly don’t care who they have speak there, but I don’t think it’s exactly “fair and balanced”. Nor should it be, that’s not a criticism.I guess when you’re the one who’s being stolen from, you’re more inclined to see these information warriors as being more like the IRA than Ralph Nader. I’ll buy that analogy when Ralph Nader stands up and says, yes we’re just like the Pirate Bay.When you’re the one who’s idolizing these information warriors, I guess you’re less inclined to see the similarities. I suggest we put a pin in that until the (I belive) criminal case in Sweden is concluded. That may be dispositive of whether they’re more like the IRA than not. I hope you can see the humor–at your expense, I admit–in your standing in the Stanford Law School, yards away from the office of Mr. Uncorruptible his bad self, and admonishing people to make anonymous cash donations to a political candidate.I gather you don’t see anything wrong in that because it’s legal in Sweden. That is–because you can get away with it.This is, of course, the standard of morality on the Internet. If you can get away with it, then it’s acceptable behavior. And that’s where the analysis stops. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had hackers (the kind who John Perry Barlow calls the EFF’s “Electronic Hezbollah) (Barlow addressing 23C3 http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=7661663613180520595&q=23c3 at 1:09) argue with me about why should anyone fight illegal p2p because a hacker can think of some clever way to encrypt packets or otherwise defeat a security measure. My response is “because it is wrong” and they literally look at me like I had said “toasted suzy is my ice cream”. Their morality is amoral.So in this case, I would suggest to you that one could make a very principled argument that it is unseemly to make anonymous campaign contributions. It may be legal in Sweden, but that is not the point. I, for one, do not understand why anyone would be fearful of signing their name to a statement of their beliefs, including a check to support their candidate.If I can suggest some reading or rereading for you, in the opening pages of Plato’s Republic there is the dialogue of Glaucon’s ring. The ring, you will recall, is a magic ring that can make the wearer invisible or visible, kind of like the Internet. I think the discussion is well worth reading (or rereading).As to your point about the spending habits of the pro-copyright lobby, I have to tell you that everywhere I go I run into yet another lobbyist from Google. Brussels, London, Paris, Washington, wherever. I was at a conference this summer where there were at least five lobbyists from Google who were observers. And that’s just Google.As Professor Lessig says, “we [meaning you] are bigger than them [meaning me].” If it is true that the anti-copyright crowd is being outspent, it is because the pro-copyright crowd is spending a disproportionate share of revenues and resources defending our rights. And that can only go on for so long as you all well know.As I am reminded every time I go to Silicon Valley, there are companies in the Valley that have a bigger market cap than the entire music industry, the implication being so we should just roll over.Try explaining to a middle class recording artist releasing records independently that she’s outspending Google. Better yet, try explaining that to a middle class songwriter (if you can find any).These are not people who are signed to major labels, they’re not fat cats, and they’re just trying to make a living. These are the people the U.S. government should be protecting from the Pirate Bay and anything that helps the Pirate Bay and their fellow travelers.But since we don’t have any way to check whether what you’re saying is true regarding campaign contributions, I guess I would have to say that I believe that you believe it. And please don’t insult yourself with that line about employees are free to do what they want. That one has been way over used for decades.I truly do appreciate your taking the time to offer your clarifications and thoughts. I wish you had made these kinds of thoughtful statements on camera to properly distance yourself from what is generally thought of as really bad behavior in this country. Not doing so definitely gives the impression that you think anonymous campaign contributions are good for Halliburton–I mean, Google–I mean, Google employees. I realize that you probably meant to say these things, but in the heat of the moment you forgot. These things happen.But you’ll forgive me if I don’t shake hands.
Hmmm. Well, if you think that “immoral” is the right word to describe two human beings sharing some information despite a third party’s objections, then we indeed have a vast communications gap to overcome. QuestionCopyright.org exists precisely to counter your attitude.I’m sorry that other peoples’ sharing disrupts your business model. When the cash register was invented, it forced thousands of highly-skilled human calculators to find new work, too. I’m sure for some of them it wasn’t easy, and that’s why I’m not being sarcastic when I say “I’m sorry”. But I’m not sorry enough to conclude that the right remedy — to preserve your (apparently) preferred business model — is to impose strict information controls on the rest of us :-).You’ve reached a different conclusion, but instead of phrasing it in terms of a business model choice, which it is, you use words like “stealing”, which it isn’t. Copying a song (now we both have it) is not meaningfully similar to taking a bicycle (now only the taker has it), and to pretend otherwise does your cause no good, I think.When you said “because it is wrong” to those hackers, and they looked at you funny, you assumed (I guess) that they were looking at you funny because they’d never encountered anyone making an argument from moral grounds before. Has it occurred to you that maybe they understand perfectly well about making arguments from moral grounds, and instead they simply disagree that it’s immoral? That they’ve actually thought about it, and come to the conclusion that it is not wrong?Thinking about things in moral terms doesn’t make you right, it just makes you someone who cares about morality. That’s great, but it’s not a guarantee that you’re coming to the right conclusions when you think about morals. I care about morality too, and came to a different conclusion: that it’s wrong to have monopolies on the flow of information. I suspect that’s what the hackers would have told you, if you’d asked them directly and amicably what their moral stance was. Did you do that?Regarding campaign contributions:No, I didn’t “forget” to say something indicating my disapproval of campaign contributions, in the Google introduction. Campaign funding is a very complex topic, and I wasn’t going to distract from Rick’s talk by launching into an analysis of why although I dislike campaign contributions in general, I dislike unilateral disarmament even more and therefore felt it’s okay to encourage contributions to the Pirate Party. Instead, I just encouraged them to contribute; they’re bright people, they can figure out the rest.I never asserted that Google was trying to have a “fair and balanced” speaker series (nor should they try to — and I was glad to see that you don’t automatically assume “fair and balanced” is the right goal to aim for either, considering how glibly that phrase gets bandied about these days). I merely said that presenting Rick is not the same as endorsing his views. You try to run a good speaker series, bringing only speakers you fully agree with, and see how far you get or how many people show up to the talks. Google’s doing a pretty good job, in my opinion: the speakers represent a selectively biased sample of the ideas out there, but are certainly not ideologically monolithic (A glance over the list of publicly posted Tech Talks will verify that, by the way.)
I know this morality thing makes people uneasy, but it’s actually more than a “business model” choice. von Lohman and others on your side of the aisle like to make this about economics. I think I know why. It’s not just about economics. This is why society fines some people and sends others to jail. There are some things that someone shouldn’t be able to buy their way out of.This is why there needs to be ethics classes in computer science departments. Might have saved some tax dollars spent on Kevin Mitnick. No kidding, people lost their jobs because of cash registers? Wow. How insightful.Not not to suggest you lack originality, but I actually have read Lessig and this is all been said/done/refuted before. Poke around here, you’ll find it.
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